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Lot 227: Revolutionary War Period 23rd Regiment Royal Welsh Fusilers Button - Pewter
29 October 2016
Rancho Santa Fe, CA, USALive Auction
Historic 23rd Regiment Royal Welsh Fusilers Which Fought at Lexington Green to Yorktown Pewter Button
Revolutionary War Period. 23rd Regiment Royal Welsh Fusilers Button. Pewter. No shank. Very Fine.
This rare button has excellent full and clear details to its front side and the reverse has part of the shank with the loop having broken off. The Royal Welch Fusiliers in American service, 23rd Regiment of Foot, during the American Revolution included fighting in nearly every major campaign (except Burgoyne's), from Lexington and Concord in 1775, right through to Yorktown in 1781. The 23rd Foot was one of the premier regiments of the Crown Forces in North America. The first of this famous British military units buttons we have offered.
In "The War of American Independence"... The tensions between the American colonies and Great Britain becoming steadily more pronounced, the 23rd was embarked for New York in 1773 and were soon moved to Boston under command of General Gage in 1774. In April of 1775, the regiment took part in the Battles of Lexington and Concord as part of Lord Percy's relief column.
On the 16th of June, 1775, the British Army, now under command of Sir William Howe, attacked the American forces on Breed's Hill in what has come to be known as the Battle of Bunker Hill. While the "fusilier" companies of the Royal Welch Fusiliers were not involved losses to the Grenadier and Light Infantry companies were extremely heavy, the former only having five men left who were not killed or wounded. It is reliably reported by several sources that the regimental goat also took part in the attack, although whether or not he survived is unknown.
The following year found the Royal Welch in New York where they were engaged in the Battles of Long Island, Brooklyn Heights, Harlem Heights, White Plains, and Fort Washington. Following the successful outcome of these ventures, the regiment was garrisoned in New York until 1776 when they took part in the Danbury, Connecticut raids in which as the rearguard, they distinguished themselves once more by holding off several determined attacks of overwhelming American forces commanded by Benedict Arnold.
In 1777, the theater of operations moved south to the Mid Atlantic states with the regiment taking part in the Battles of Brandywine, Germantown, and the capture of Philadelphia and the river forts protecting it. With the surrender of the British Northern Army at Saratoga that same year, the war became a global one when France declared alliance with the Americans, and in 1778, it was the decision of Lord George Germaine (formerly Lord Sackville of Minden notoriety) to abandon the rebel capitol and retreat overland to the British base in New York. Washington, whose army had endured a bitter winter at Valley Forge, decided to attack the retreating redcoats, and at Monmouth Courthouse an indecisive engagement ensued, after which the Grenadier Company, which had lost a third of its strength, received the thanks of Brigadier General Sir William Meadows.
During the late summer and early fall of 1778, the Royal Welch Fusiliers served as marines aboard the fleet during several inconclusive engagements with the French fleet. Following their return to New York, Admiral Lord Howe was pleased "to present his most particular thanks to the officers and soldiers of the three companies of the Royal Welch Fusiliers for their spirited and gallant behavior on board the ships that had engaged the enemy, and to the whole regiment for its conduct during the time it served on board the fleet."
The regiment remained in New York throughout the winter of 1778 -1779, venturing forth in May of 1779 to capture several of the small Hudson river forts and then joining a punitive expedition against the Connecticut ports of New Haven, Norfolk, Greenfield, and Fairfield. Towards the end of the year, they embarked aboard the fleet once again, this time for the southern colonies under the Sir Henry Clinton and the Earl of Cornwallis arriving before the South Carolina port of Charleston in early 1780. The city was soon laid under siege, and after a short time was surrendered, yielding several thousand captives, a vast quantity of supplies, ordnance, and several French and American naval vessels. Shortly thereafter, Sir Henry Clinton returned to New York leaving the Earl of Cornwallis in command of four thousand men, including the Royal Welch Fusiliers.
British strategy at this point in the war was greatly influenced by the need to protect her other interests from the West Indies to Gibralter, and with Spain following France in declaring support for the revolting colonies, British forces were in very short supply. Having heard rumors of strong loyalist support in the southern colonies, Cornwallis' plan was to establish a series of outposts across the south to encourage these loyalists to rally to the flag.
With the fall of Charleston, American morale was probably at its lowest point of anytime during the war, and to try to reverse their fortunes, Congress dispatched General Horatio Gates, the hero of Saratoga, to take command of all southern Continental forces.
Advancing deep into South Carolina with approximately 6,000 men, many of whom were raw militia, Gates and Cornwallis collided with each other at the small town of Camden. Although outnumbered, Cornwallis' force was able to break the American militia, and the Royal Welch Fusiliers and the 33rd Regiment of Foot were able to turn the American flank resulting in a precipitous American retreat after forty five minutes of stubborn resistance. Pursued by the British cavalry, the retreat soon became a rout, with about 1,000 prisoners taken and about 900 casualties inflicted upon the hapless Americans.
Although the success of British arms at Camden removed all organized resistance in the south, their position was still precarious due to extended supply lines and American guerilla tactics. Cornwallis' force was reduced to living off the land as a result, and in an attempt to cover his western flanks and encourage the Loyalists, he sent Major Patrick Ferguson with a force of Loyalist militia west. This effort was annihilated at the Battle of King's Mountain, and the further defeat of Banastre Tarleton by American General Daniel Morgan at the Battle of Cowpens on the 17th of January, 1781, forced Cornwallis to burn his baggage and chase Morgan north in a valiant attempt to recapture British prisoners. In what must be viewed as one of the epic marches in history, Cornwallis came within hours of catching Morgan after crossing into North Carolina, but was ultimately forced by his lack of supplies to retreat south again.
Congress having replaced General Gates with General Nathaniel Greene, the later moved to the vicinity of Guilford Courthouse where on the 15th of March, 1781 Cornwallis attacked him in his entrenched positions and after a very bloody and fought engagement, succeeded in driving the Americans back with heavy losses including all their guns and ammunition. Unfortunately for Cornwallis, his own casualty figures of 548 killed and wounded prevented any effectual follow up of this victory.
The part played by the Royal Welch Fusiliers in this engagement was one of prominence, having been in the forefront of the charges that broke through two successive American lines. The regiment had lost a third of its officers in this battle, which proved to be a Pyrrhic victory as Cornwallis was now forced to Wilmington to replenish his supplies.
Sensing his advantage, Greene penetrated into South Carolina, and in an attempt to draw him into a decisive engagement, Cornwallis marched into Virginia. After some minor engagements, the British army found itself at Yorktown awaiting reinforcement and supply from the Navy. After the defeat of the British fleet by the French, under the command of Admiral DeGrasse, Cornwallis' position became untenable, and the surrender which followed effectively ended all fighting in the American Revolution. During the siege, the Royal Welch Fusiliers held their redoubt against overwhelming odds, and gaining the respect of their foes. The redoubt still exists at the Yorktown Battlefield National Park and is named the Fusilier Redoubt in honor of the regiment's brave stand.